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Whitaker Can Only Suppress Mueller Report Until House Dems Impeach

"Once Democrats have that subpoena power, that's when Trump gets nervous," Jim VandeHei said.

Mika Scarborough asked reporter Ken Delanian, "What is the arc of the pathway to this point with (Matthew) Whitaker?"

"So remember, Whitaker, who was a U.S. attorney in the Bush administration and a tight end on the Iowa football team and Jeff Sessions' chief of staff, got to this point after becoming -- after he was a commentator on CNN and he criticized the Mueller investigation, the very premise of the Mueller investigation," Delanian said. "He said at one point there was no collusion. He questioned the aspects of how Robert Mueller was doing his job."

"Stop right there. Wouldn't that be a reason for recusal?" Mika asked.

"Not legally, Mika. We now have a letter from the Justice Department to the leaders of Congress laying all this out. The appearance of impropriety created by Whitaker's many statements to the media did not trigger a legal requirement for recusal, nor did it even trigger a requirement that he gets formal ethics advice. But he got informal advice from a top ethics official at the Justice Department and that person said, 'Look, this is a close call and if I were you, I would recuse,'" Delanian said.

"So he was essentially recommending that Matthew Whitaker step aside, because reasonable people could question his impartiality, based on what he said. But he relied on a council of a group he convened and he is not accepting the advice of the senior ethics official at the Justice Department. What that means is that Matthew Whitaker could end up being the person who decides what to do with the Mueller report -- if, in fact, our reporting is correct, that the Mueller report lands in mid-February, Mika."

John Heileman asked Jim VandeHei whether the Mueller report is going to become public anyway.

"The Justice Department makes a lot of those decisions about what becomes public and when," VandeHei said. "I think what you're talking about with Democrats in control of the House, if they go down the impeachment route, they're going to get almost all of this testimony, or a lot of it put on the public record. So that's right, this is consequential in the short-term. If they want to curtail the investigation, they could. I think the anticipation is the report will come sometime next year. When we talked to Rudy Giuliani, he told Mike Allen he thinks the Trump part of the investigation is almost over, but there's many other pieces they don't think are resolved. So it's possible you'll see different parts of this report.

"But I do think the game changes," VandeHei said.

"As crazy as this day, as crazy as this month has been, once Democrats have that subpoena power, that's when Trump gets nervous. He's already been told -- the working assumption internally is that regardless of what Democrats say, he will one day be impeached over the course of the next 18 months. One of the reasons he spends so much time worrying about the base is that he needs 34 Republican senators to stick with him through thick or thin.

"Hence his obsession with delivering on all of his campaign promises. Hence his reacting to what Drudge does, or what Limbaugh does, or what Ann Coulter does."

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